The last year has been a reckoning for so many people struggling with their mental health as the pandemic brought unique challenges, exacerbated new and old traumas and forced us all to be extremely close and personal with our loved ones (even when we weren’t able to physically be with them). For Gabrielle Union, who has been extremely forthcoming about her struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after she was sexually assaulted in college, quarantining with her family has given her new insight into the role her mental health journey plays in her relationships.
In the first episode of Taraji P. Henson’s new Facebook Watch series Peace of Mind with Taraji, Union shared how she first made the decision to begin therapy. She was in the hospital after her assault and said she and her parents were told that she would need mental health help that her family “wouldn’t be equipped” to give her alone.
“So I started therapy, probably wasn’t even a week, maybe five days after my rape,” Union said. “…being able to have the language to know what was happening to me, to define the terror that exists to this day in my body, in my spirit, in my soul and to say ‘oh that’s post-traumatic stress syndrome.’ I need it.”
She also shared the physical and mental symptoms she can experience from her PTSD: “Usually my right arm starts to feel like it’s going numb and it just feels like a full-body heart attack — the way you’d imagine a heart attack but in your knees, in your legs, in your arms, in your chest, in your eyeballs.”
“It has been hard during the quarantine because we are in the same space,” Union said. “I have not been home in any kind of consistent way since I have been an adult. So just getting to know my husband, which sounds crazy. I was like, ‘Oh, every day, every day you’re going to be here? I guess this is healthy.’ I just feel a little more naked, exposed, because I’m just on Zoom with the therapist and I can hear the household… there’s not enough space.”
And that extra layer of vulnerability has made it near-impossible to not share what she’s going through and to reckon with the all-too-real fear that her “baggage” and her trauma might be too big or too much for her partner or her other loved ones to handle.
“You’ve got to find out, ‘do you love me for all of the baggage?’ It’s like a Tumi store. There’s so much baggage,” she said. “You get worried that maybe you have revealed too much and you’re going to scare them away because damaged women aren’t supposed to be lovable.”
If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual assault, harassment or violence, you can get help. To speak with someone who is trained to help with these situations, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) or chat online at online.rainn.org.
Before you go, check out our favorite mental health apps that are useful and affordable:
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